“WE BRING PEACE AND FREEDOM TO THE WORLD”: Caesar Augustus’ “Acts of the Divine Augustus”

Part V

E. Formation of the Roman Province of Galatia

Galatia emerged as a Roman province during the reign of Augustus. Prior to this, client kings ruled this territory under the authority of Rome. The land was divided into three districts corresponding geographically to each of the three Galatian tribes, Tolistobogii (around Pessinus), Tectosages (around Ancyra), and Trocmi (around Tavium). The tetrarch of the Tolistobogii Deiotarus, who was later granted by Rome the title ‘king’, extended his control over the land of the Trocmi. Though he was deprived of his rule over the land of the Trocmi for a short while by Caesar, Deiotarus was again made the ruler over this land by Antony after the death of Caesar. After murdering treacherously the tetrarch of the Tectosages, Deiotarus became king of the entire Galatia (Strabo, 12.5.1). After his death and a brief rule by his son, Amyntas was appointed as a new king by Antony in 36 BCE. Amyntas extended the frontiers of Galatia, which included now the three lands of the three Galatian tribes, much of Lycaonia and part of Pamphylia (Strabo, 12.5.1; Dio, 49.32.3, 53.26.3; Plutarch, Ant 61.2). Though Amyntas was loyal to Antony till then, he shifted his loyalty to Augustus in the war at Actium (Plutarch, Ant 63.3). Because of his loyalty in the war, Augustus confirmed him as king and extended his rule over much of Pisidia, Isauria in the south, and western part of Cilicia called Cilicia Tracheia (Strabo, 14.6.1). Augustus’ victory over Antony at Actium in 31 BCE brought to an end the turbulent period in Galatia due to domestic unrest and complex maneuverings with the Roman rulers during the civil wars. However, Amyntas had faced resistance from the southern region tribe, Homanadenses, to the efforts of pacification through subjugation. While engaged in a war to subjugate this tribe in 25 BCE, he was killed (Dio, 53.26.3). Amyntas, thus, failed in his attempt to bring peace in the entire land, which was important to Rome to promote its self-interests.

Soon after the death of Amyntas, Augustus annexed Galatia in order to bring internal peace and order, and made the entire area ruled by Amyntas an imperial province in 25 BCE (Dio, 53.26.3; Strabo, 12.5.1). Dio noted:

On the death of Amyntas he (Augustus) did not entrust his kingdom to his sons but made it part of the subject territory. Thus Galatia together with Lycoania obtained a Roman governor, and the portions of Pamphylia formerly assigned to Amyntas were restored to their own districts (Dio, History 53. 26. 3).

Galatian province included the land of the three Galatian tribes, Pisidia, Isauria, Lycaonia and part of Pamphylia. Later Paphlagonia (in 6/5 BCE) and Pontus Galaticus (in 3/2 BCE) were added. For Rome, internal peace and order in Galatia was important. Because Asia Minor was like a bridge between the west and the east. So Rome wanted this region to be firmly under its control.

 1. Colonies

Rome, as a deliberate imperial policy, created colonies. The death of Amyntas in 25 BCE while attempting to subjugate the resisting tribe of Homanadenses, was clear evidence of unstable conditions in the southern part of the Galatian province. This tribe and others, like Isaurians lived in the mountain ranges north-east of Pisidia and revolted against the Roman control in 6 CE, had always been a source of resistance to the Roman rule and its client kings. As a strong measure to bring peace by military force through subjugation of the resisting groups, Augustus founded colonies of the legionary veterans such as Pisidian Antioch, Cremna, Lystra, Olbasa, Parlais and Comama.[1] The land required for a colony was usually confiscated. Roman settlers formed the citizens’ body, and the natives might become either a separate community or subjects of the colony.[2] The constitution of the colonies was organized on a Roman pattern.

2. Roads

In order to maintain Roman peace in the subject territory, Rome had developed a road-system in the Galatian province. Roads were primarily for military and administrative purposes. This objective was characteristic of the Roman imperialism. Roads were used to control and exploit resources in the subject territories through military and administrative means.[3]

In Galatia the road, Via Sebaste, was laid in 6 BCE with Pisidian Antioch as the pivot and from there to the south-central Anatolian port of Perga, and on the east to the colonies of Iconium and Lystra. In the same year the Roman army used this road to wage war against the resisting Homanadenses to subjugate them. Military activity and construction of roads in subject territories offer a pattern of Roman methods to maintain Roman peace by subduing the resisting local groups. Roman roads in Galatia “implicitly symbolized but explicitly articulated Rome’s and specially the emperor’s domination.”[4] In other words, the presence of the Roman roads was a visible symbol of the Roman political control of the Galatian province.[5] A text on the milestone in Galatia summarizes it all: “Imperator Caesar Son of God Pontifex Maximus” (CIL 3.6974). The primary function of milestone was to advertise the dominion of the emperor.[6]

3. Cities

Urbanization was a Roman imperial policy to further its dominion over subject. Soon after the annexation of Galatia in 25 BCE, Augustus created three new cities in the north, Pessinus, Tavium, and Ancyra, and one in the south, Pisidian Antioch. The name sebaste was given to Pessinus, Tavium, and Ancyra indicating that the province represented by these cities began a new era under Augustus. This new era was characterized by Roman peace and security. Pisidian Antioch was renamed as Colonia Caesarea. However, the old name prevailed. But the principal square of this city was named Augustea Platea.[7] Renaming the cities by adding the emperor’s name was an indicator of Roman domination and control. This renaming served two purposes: one was that it ensured that the person and authority of the emperor was before the populace, and the other was, it became a symbol of loyalty of the populace. The political ideals of autonomy and independence that had defined the classical Greek polis were replaced in the Roman civitas by “two aims that were both functional and ideological.”[8] Crosaan and Reed describe these two aims:

One was to use cities as administrative centers for supervising the production and distribution of local and regional resources. That also…meant taxation flowing back to Rome. The other one was to build communities by creating for the empire’s urban populations a common form of civic life (and) a common set of civic buildings…That …meant loyalty flowing back to Rome.[9]

For Galatians, autonomy and freedom from external control were hallmarks of the Greek polis and basic to its political organization. Pausanias reflected this definition of a city when he commented that “Panopeus, for all its miserable appearance, was yet free because it still sent its own delegate to the Phocian assembly.”[10] Freedom and autonomy of a city had diminished with the arrival of the Roman rule. A public document of 88 BCE of a city in Asia clearly mentions the freedom under Roman imperialism: “Without the rule of the Romans we do not choose even to live.”[11] The index of city status was no longer political autonomy but other criteria such as public buildings. This shift indicates the intention of Rome. Consolidation of the Roman control was maintained through establishment of the imperial cult and programs of public buildings in cities. Economic support for public building projects was provided by the local wealthy aristocratic class, which maintained close links with the imperial power.[12] 

Galatia was primarily a rural province with a few cities. Cities were small and separated by vast areas of countryside. Roman roads passed through these vast areas connecting the cities. The importance given by Rome to urban wealthy aristocracy would indicate that countryside was neglected.[13] For Rome believed that the internal peace and security of provinces was based on maintenance of the status quo, not social change. As Anthony Macro comments,

Whatever the immediate occasion may have been, the collaboration of Rome with the indigenous upper classes was at all events an explicit piece of political calculation. It could relate both to the existence, extension and security of the empire and to the internal situation of the province in question.[14]

Maintenance of peace and security in the provinces was for its own economic benefit where money flowed into Rome through taxes and duties. For the local wealthy aristocracy, the Roman peace guaranteed preservation of the existing order and therefore continuation of their status.[15] The predominance of the local wealthy aristocracy in the province was confirmed by their loyalty to the Roman power. The wealthy controlled life in city, whether in city council, or market square. Position in cities tended to correspond closely to wealth, so long as a man was freeborn.[16] Local powers were increasingly concentrated in the local elite and wealthy. Due to the obvious fact of the aristocratic omnipotence, in the empire popular participation in the government reached its lowest point and the sense of unity tended to diminish.[17] Thus, mutual self-interest between the central power at Rome and the local wealthy aristocracy was the bed-rock of Rome’s rule in the east.[18]

In response to the demonstration of allegiance to his authority, Augustus rewarded cities with autonomy. In several cases cities were “given” freedom to have local administration, and allowed to have their own laws.[19] They could organize a system of taxation on a more systematic basis, and determine the amounts to be collected. However, even “free cities” were required to pay taxes to Rome. Revenues flowed from provinces into the treasury of Rome. Even though free cities were granted autonomy, it was not the freedom which Galatians understood as autonomy and being free from the control of external power. It was the freedom “given” to them by the Roman power for their loyalty and submission. Rome put several restrictions on the freedom of local government. Self-rule was a gift rather than an inalienable right. Even though libertas conveyed the idea of freedom from meddling in city affairs by provincial governors, in practice freedom of any city was dependent on Rome’s favor.[20] Plutarch deplored of liberty peoples have “as great a share as our rulers grant them” (Plutarch, Moralia 824 C). It was true that “under the guise of freedom all things happen at Rome’s pleasure” (Livy 35.31.12 ff). The setting up of AA in the temple of Roma and Augustus, the place of public ritual and community gatherings, was intended to remind the populace of Galatia that their freedom was depended on the acceptance of the imperial system of peace and freedom.


[1] Robert K. Sherk, “Roman Galatia: The Governors from 25 B.C. to A.D. 114,” ANRW, II.7.2, p. 963.

[2] A.H.M. Jones, Augustus (London: Chatto & Windus, 1970), p. 98.

[3] D.H. French, “The Roman Road-System of Asia Minor,” ANRW, II.7.2, p. 700.

[4] Crossan and Reed, In Search of Paul, p. 201.

[5] Stephen Mitchell, Anatolia: Land, Men, and Gods in Asia Minor: The Celts in Anatolia and the Impact of Roman Rule, Vol. I (Oxford, NY: Clarendon Press, 1993), p. 63.

[6] G.H.R. Horsley, “Two New Milestones from Pisidia,” in Anatolian Studies, XXXIX (1989), p. 80.

[7]David Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor: To the End of the Third Century after Christ, Vol. I: Text (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950), p. 460.

[8] Crossan and Reed, In Search of Paul, p. 185.

[9] Crossan and Reed, In Search of Paul, p. 185.

[10] Mitchell, Anatolia, p. 81.

[11] J. Reynolds, Aphrodisias and Rome, 1982, 12 doc. 2.

[12] Jones, Augustus, p. 94.

[13] Stephen Mitchell, “Population and the Land in Roman Galatia,” ANRW, II.7.2, p. 1068.

[14] Anthony D. Macro, “The Cities of Asia Minor under the Roman Imperium,” ANRW, II.7.2, p. 682.

[15] Macro, “The Cities of Asia Minor,” p. 682.

[16] Chester G. Starr, Civilization and the Caesars: The Intellectual Revolution in the Roman Empire (New York: Cornell University Press, 1954), p. 91.

[17] Starr, Civilization and the Caesars, p. 100.

[18] Macro, “The Cities of Asia Minor,” p. 659.

[19] Dawson, Freedom as Liberating Power, p. 76.

[20] Maggie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor, p. 474.


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